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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
5 min read

Depending on how you use your photos, you'll either be thrilled or disappointed with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15. For its sub-$180 price, you get a nice-looking ultracompact with plenty of automatic shooting options and a couple of noteworthy features such as the 29mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 5x zoom. Its shutter lag is a bit too long for moving subjects and its photo quality a bit too imperfect for large prints. But if your subjects are still and your prints are smaller than 5x7 inches, you'll probably like the FS15 quite a bit.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15

The Good

Very good design, features for its price; dedicated Intelligent Auto button; wide-angle 5x zoom lens.

The Bad

Mixed photo quality, performance.

The Bottom Line

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15 is a well-appointed snapshot camera for the money with the mixed performance and photo quality typical of its class.

Key specs Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15
Price (MSRP) $179.95
Dimensions (WHD) 2.1x3.8x0.9 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 5x, f3.3-5.9, 29-145mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 330 shots
Storage media SD/SDHC, MultiMediaCard

The FS15's brushed metal casing--available in blue, black, and silver--with chrome accents keeps it from looking too generic. The blue version will probably get you some second looks, but it otherwise looks the part of the basic point-and-shoot that it is. It's reasonably thin and lightweight, too, so no problems putting it in a pants pocket or small bag.

The camera's controls are simple enough that out-of-the-box use shouldn't be a problem for those familiar with digital cameras. A switch for powering the camera on and off is on top, next to the shutter release and zoom ring. There's also a small button for quickly changing to Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode (iA) that determines the most suitable Scene mode and helps correct any blurring, focus, and brightness issues. While you could argue that a button for going to Movie mode might be more useful, the use of an iA allows you to switch between any two modes. This means if you do a majority of your shooting in iA, you can set the camera to Movie mode and then use the iA button to quickly switch between the two.

On back to the top right of the LCD is a switch to go from shooting to playback. Below that to the left is a Mode button. Again, it's all pretty simple. The only confusing bit may be the Quick Menu button (Q.Menu) on back at the lower right. This brings up a vertical bar of shooting-mode-sensitive options. If what you're looking to adjust isn't there, a general Menu/Set button sits at the center of the four navigational buttons that double as exposure, flash, macro, and timer controls.

General shooting options Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, Custom
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Scene, My Scene, Movie
Focus modes Normal AF, Macro AF, Zoom Macro AF, Tracking AF
Metering Face, AF Tracking, Multi (11 point), 1 point
Color effects Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 5 photos (standard compression); 3 photos (fine compression)

The FS15 is heavy on the auto-shooting features, so don't expect controls over aperture or shutter speed. In Normal Picture mode you get the most control over results with settings for focus, light metering, color effects, white balance, ISO, and exposure. You also get access to Panasonic's Intelligent ISO for limiting the sensitivity to a maximum of ISO 400, 800, or 1,600. (Because of the poor photo results at ISO 1,600, we recommend using the ISO Max 800 setting for low-light situations and ISO Max 400 for bright conditions.)

If you like scene modes, the FS15 has 26 of them. The list includes familiar ones like Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scenery, and more unusual artistic options like Pinhole and Film Grain (though the last two are limited to shots 3 megapixels and below). A My Scene option is also available, letting you associate a favorite scene mode with a spot in the shooting-mode menu. The fully automatic iA mode gets a spot on the shooting menu, too. There is a Movie mode capable of capturing VGA-quality video clips. There's no use of the optical zoom while recording, though.

The FS15's performance falls in line with a majority of sub-$200 cameras. Start-up time is 2 seconds with shot-to-shot times averaging 3.1 seconds without flash and 3.3 seconds with. From focus to capture in bright lighting conditions is a long 0.7 second; in dim lighting the time goes up to a more typical 1 second. The only thing the camera does well is burst shooting at 1.8 frames per second.

Overall, the photos produced by the FS15 are good for snapshots, but there are a couple of issues that keep the camera from getting a better rating. Photos, when viewed at 100 percent, show visible noise at all ISOs and faint yellow coloring. It isn't until ISO 400 that noise and noise suppression combine to soften detail. At ISO 800, photos take on a soft, painterly appearance and the yellowing gets more noticeable, but fine detail is still fairly good. Though there's still some detail at ISO 1,600, photos are for the most part unusable because they are covered in faint yellow splotches along with a good amount of noise. Colors are pleasing and natural from the FS15. Exposure is fairly good; however highlights tend to blow out.

Photos are at their sharpest when the camera is in Macro. Sharpness is good at the center, but gets softer out to the corners. The 29mm-equivalent wide-angle lens has just some minor barrel distortion at its widest position. Purple fringing was minimal in high-contrast areas, too.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15's design and features are spot-on for its price. The performance and photo quality keep me from giving it an across-the-board recommendation. Those wanting to regularly make prints larger than 8x10 inches, doing a lot of low-light shooting with no flash, or trying to snap subjects in motion, will probably want to pass on the FS15. It is otherwise well suited for everyday snapshot photography.

Shooting speed
(seconds: smaller is better)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS
Nikon Coolpix S570
Pentax Optio P70
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Frames per second: larger is better)

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Image quality 6